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Dames daunting in derby league

Tough, gritty, intimidating — roller derby is a sport made for Dames.

The Southern Slayer Derby Dames, a new roller derby league in Columbus, is seeking women from the Fort Benning and Columbus area with a love for skating to come practice and try out at Xanadu Skate Center on Whittlesey Boulevard.

As of now, the league consists of four teams, each with a different theme: The Airborne Angels salutes Fort Benning and military wives; the Third Wave Revolt embodies punk, metal and rock; the Duchess’ of Destruction depicts royalty of medieval times; and Fatal Crush represent femme fatales.

Any person can try out for any team they choose, said Derby Dames founder Brandi Sayedzada, who began the league in October. However, the league is only in practice stages now and is trying to gain membership.

“The response was very overwhelming,” Sayedzada said when she put the idea out on Facebook. “I knew I had to make this thing happen. I’ve always heard about the sport and we’ve never had anything like that here. I was looking for a group of supportive women who are about the community.”

Roller derby consists of two teams competing against each other in bouts, and each bout has a series of matches, which are called jams. Each team has a jammer, a pivot and three blockers. Each jammer tries to pass the blockers and pivot of the other team and is awarded one point for each person they pass.

When roller derby was popular in the 1970s and 80s, it was known as a staged sport, much like today’s World Wrestling Entertainment.

“Having community support is a big deal,” said Naomi Wainwright, who is acting as the league’s instructor during practices. “We don’t make money doing it; we pay to play. We need the community and rinks to realize this is not the derby of the 70s and 80s; it’s a legitimate sport. You play to win.”

Wainwright said it is uncertain when the league will be ready to host bouts. The league is already at about 30 members, and some are novices at skating. Eventually, there will be a membership fee estimated at $35.

“Getting everyone on the same skating level is going to be our first hurdle,” she said. “From there, we can teach the game and how it’s played and then schedule scrimmages. It could be six months or a year.”

But to do that, the Dames will need a consistent place to practice, a challenge Wainwright said will only be overcome through community support.

“Getting a place to practice as many days a week as we will need to practice in order to be ready for bouts next year is proving difficult,” she said. “It may come down to us finding a tennis court and laying down a track. Right now, we have a lot of people who are passionate and want to learn.”